Hi, Carolyn: I’m getting married in July and need help reaching out to a relative who won’t be invited. It’s my aunt’s soon-to-be-ex-husband. Over the years he’s been like a second father to me, and I still care about him a great deal. There’s enough animosity between him and his wife and my cousin that it’s clear he wouldn’t come to the wedding anyway, but I’ve decided to not invite him preemptively.
It’s a decision I don’t feel great about, but it’s necessary. I’d like to reach out to him in some way to explain and to acknowledge his role and significance in my life, but I’m not sure what to say. “Aunt and cousin would be uncomfortable, so I’m not inviting you even though you mean a lot to me”?? I know he’ll understand, but it just makes me so sad.
I like to take writers’ word on absolutes in their letters. You have one here, calling your uncle’s exclusion “necessary.” Perhaps it is; your direct tie is to your aunt and so, all other things being equal, this rift puts her alone on your guest list.
Still: Finding no good words to explain your actions can be a dead-on indicator of actions you ought not to take.
So if you feel you simply can’t stand before your uncle with the truth, then it’s worth at least trying to come up with a better truth.
In this case, that might just be telling him, “I want to say how sorry I am about your and Auntie’s divorce, and that you’ve been like a second father to me.” No mention of invitations. Since it’s apparently your first contact since the marital meltdown, it’s a much better opener than, “You’re off my guest list.”
The wedding is in July, after all, so you have time – for a second or third conversation; for the animosity to cool into something more civil, since weirder things have happened; for the subject to come up organically, and even for him to volunteer that he doesn’t expect an invitation. There’s time for you to sleep on your decision, feel better about it, make a better one.
Maybe all of these are wishful thinking, but, again, you have time to wish.
When the mailing date approaches, and if nothing happens to change your mind or circumstances, then you tell your uncle what you’ve decided. “I’m not sending you an invitation, only because I see it as the best of some bad options. I hope it’s the only time any of us feels it’s necessary to choose.”
The fact of your having reached out to him before this, just to let him know you care, will likely make this news much easier – to give and to receive.
Dear Carolyn: My husband tries to be helpful around the house. But he seems to have rather large blind spots. I’ve learned he truly doesn’t see the packages piled up on the porch when he walks inside. He cleans up the kitchen, but misses the pots on the stove and the countertops with spills and crumbs. He doesn’t remember when trash day is so he never gets the can to the curb.
I have tried to point out some of these in a gentle way, but he gets upset that I don’t appreciate how much he does around the house.
But when the job is half-done, I feel resentful that I have to always remember – and finish – the household jobs. He will do anything I ask, but I’m tired of asking. I want him to recognize and carry some of the load with me.
He (BEG ITAL)is(END ITAL) carrying some of the load. He might even argue he’s carrying more than his half – because you have to ask, half of what whole?
If he were expecting to live in a sparkly clean environment on your labors alone, that would be one thing. But from what you describe, he’d be content to live amid his crumbs and spills. That’s a different problem for you, for both of you, altogether.
So before you envision a fair division of labor, you need to reconcile your way to a fair vision of the outcome. Your standard of “clean enough,” his, or somewhere in between?
Another discussion point: If you insist – for the sake of argument – on surgical cleanliness, does he still need to do half of whatever that requires? Or is the one with higher standards responsible for the aboves-and-beyonds?
With housekeeping, the tendency is to think vertically: You do dishes, I do laundry; I vacuum, you take out the trash; each job done to completion.
Maybe the answer here is to agree to think horizontally instead: You tend to dishes, laundry, vacuum and trash to your standards, and I finish them to mine. He cuts, you style.
You can also close any resentment-breeding gaps with professional help. And, a smartphone: His can ping him weekly on trash night. Marriages have been rescued by less.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.